Lawyers accuse Apple of deleting songs from iPods in class-action suit

In a $350 million lawsuit over locking users into the iTunes and iPod ecosystem, attorneys for the class-action case accused Apple of deleting music downloaded from an iTunes-rival service in a user's library without notifying the users. For its part, Apple defended its move, stating that it was a security measure and that it didn't want to confuse users.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the plaintiffs in this civil class-action claim that the move stifled competition and damages could be tripled under antitrust laws.

When a user who had downloaded music from a rival service tried to sync an iPod to the user's iTunes library, Apple would display an error message and instruct the user to restore the factory settings, Coughlin said. When the user restored the settings, the music from rival services would disappear, he said.

Apple security director Augustin Farrugia defended the company stating that it was due to security issues and to thwart hackers:

Farrugia told the court that hackers with names like "DVD Jon" and "Requiem" made Apple "very paranoid" about protecting iTunes. Updates that deleted non-Apple music files were intended to protect consumers from those system break-ins. "The system was totally hacked," he said.

A videotaped deposition from late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is expected to also be played in this trial. In an email with Apple software head Eddy Cue, Jobs said:

Someone is breaking into our house.

Additionally, Farrugia said that the company didn't want to confuse users by offering a more detailed explanation of what happened.

Update: John Gruber of Daring Fireball rightly points out:

The thing with Real Networks is that they backwards-engineered FairPlay in 2004, and Apple responded by closing the loopholes Real exploited. If Real had sold DRM-free MP3 files, Apple wouldn't have done anything. Amazon's music store, has always sold music in plain no-DRM MP3 format, and those files have always worked perfectly with iTunes and iPods.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Chuong H Nguyen